After a mixed reaction to their Cruiser range, Bavaria turned to superyacht specialists to vamp up the new Bavaria Vision 46. Toby Hodges finds out if a star has been born
Bringing in a big name to put their design stamp on a new range is an established way for a production builder to boost marketing potential – much like a Hollywood star being drafted into a movie to up box office appeal. But would the new Bavaria Vision 46 benefit from some start quality?
For the revamp of their Cruiser line, Bavaria contracted Farr Yacht Design for the naval architecture and BMW designworks USA for the styling. However, just as a Michael Fassbender or Naomi Watts on a billboard will not necessarily ensure a film’s success, the result was no crowd pleaser.
They produced a stiffer, more balanced and rewarding yacht than Bavaria cruisers of old, but the overall look was not pretty – the ports looked as if they were borrowed from an armoured van.
Faced with strong competition from Bénéteau’s Sense range, Elan’s Impression and Jeanneau’s Sun Odyssey, which were offering clients light, volume and comfort, Bavaria were forced to rethink for the new Vision line.
CEO Dr Jens Ludmann was brought in two years ago from the automotive industry and the Bavaria Vision 46 is the first launch under his watch.
His decision to commission superyacht specialists Design Unlimited for the deck and interior styling proved a shrewd one and, with Farr proving reliable with the hull design, the Bavaria Vision 46 made quite a splash last January.
The teardrop coachroof windows give her a modern look and the sheer level of fresh thinking that has helped make this Vision so light, comfortable and easy to spend time on is immediately obvious once you step aboard.
In fact, the quality throughout this boat shines. It’s the first time Bavaria have used a split mould, and the build has obviously been meticulous.
Then there’s the glitz of push-button gadgets to help promote the ease of sailing short-handed.
There have already been four sales of the Bavaria Vision 46 in the UK and we went to test the first with Clipper Marine.
Director Richard Hewett sees the Cruiser line more for those staying in the UK, while Vision clients head further afield. The test boat was going to a Scottish client who plans to cruise her in the Mediterranean.
Sailing the Bavaria Vision 46
Although styled by some of the best design brains in the business, the Bavaria Vision 46 is still a slab-sided lump to confront on the pontoon. But needs must; volume has to be conjured from somewhere.
The designers have clearly put a premium on cockpit comfort. Bavaria had an exclusivity deal with Lewmar to stock their new self-tacking Revo winches, which allow you to tack the boat at the push of a button.
Mounting the main and primary winches close to the twin wheels leaves the cockpit benches clear of lines, with one coachroof winch for halyards.
In perfect South Coast conditions – Force 4-5 and warm sun – we found the boat comfortable to sail.
A single-point backstay leaves those beamy aft quarters unimpeded and, with cushioned backrests – which should surely double as lifebuoys – this area proved very comfortable for the helmsman.
Although from behind the wheel this seems a big boat, the Bavaria Vision 46 always felt manageable.
Beside the wheel an area has been sculpted out to allow the helmsman to straddle the wheel, rest a foot on the pedestal and reach the primaries.
Foot chocks on the sole are well-positioned for helmsman and crew, and it’s easy to move between wheels. Visibility forward (with the sprayhood down) is good.
In 15-18 knots boat speed was adequate – and this was backed up by the polars – thanks to a long waterline that’s just a foot shorter than LOA, although it was hard to ascertain precisely with a roaring spring ebb and no working paddlewheel log.
Winches that tack the sheets across automatically at the push of a button are a strange new phenomenon to get your head around: hold a button down and the active winch begins to backwind. Then after a pause to allow the bow to swing, the other winch winds in automatically.
The system certainly worked, but Bavaria’s control panel needs rethinking as it is not intuitive. I have since sailed a Hallberg-Rassy with a similar system which had a much clearer control panel.
Bavaria’s Trim Control system can be linked into a Garmin plotter and autopilot, allowing the helmsman to press ‘tack’ and the whole thing will happen automatically. It’s still a lot to keep an eye on if you are sailing single-handed.
It was certainly necessary to monitor the active winch to make sure it was releasing correctly as the backwinding winch sometimes didn’t release, which could cause a pickle in a tack.
You can also control the mainsheet in and out from the panel if you have the sheet rigged to the coachroof winch.
The test boat had the mainsheet split-sheeted and led aft, which I preferred, as we could take up the windward winch to coax the boom over and invoke some twist in the sail.
Once I got the hang of it, auto-tacking was very easy, though the Bavaria Vision 46 is set up well for short-handed sailing anyway.
Despite 24 knots over the deck and full sail, the cable-linked helms didn’t loaded up too much, and maintained admirable control when heeled.
The 105 per cent jib is a manageable size, even without electronic aid, and with chainplates outboard and sheets led to a track on the coachroof, the Bavaria Vision 46 points well, tacking in just over 80°.
As you descend the offset companionway, the Bavaria Vision 46 feels stable, with solid grabrails leading down into a large inviting living area.
Thanks to the huge coachroof and hull windows, as well as overhead hatches and 7ft headroom, there is abundant natural light and a pleasant feeling of space.
The accommodation is offered in two or three-cabin formats – the latter has a second heads forward – but the standard layout with a twin aft cabin that converts to a double makes a practical option.
This provides a useful work/locker space accessed through the heads. The offset companion creates room for a central island.
Rather than simply creating extra galley space, it provides something to lean against when working in the galley, making it a practical place at sea.
All sole panels have lifting latches – a big plus to make bilge checking and stowage accessible – and the plumbing and hot water tank are neatly contained beside the galley.
However, it’s a pity all the ply edges and end-grain is left untreated. Bavaria have also chosen an impractical white material for some vertical panels, which was already getting grubby.
But nitpicking aside, there’s so much smart thinking throughout, including superb stowage solutions and dual-role tables and chairs that swivel and lift, combined with a good level of finish, that this makes for a very impressive, game-changing interior.
On deck details
- Although the side decks are narrow aft, the high coachroof and integrated rail makes it safe to go forward when heeled.
- Vast stowage in the cockpit quarter lockers, aft lazarette and (in this format) the workshop.
- The cockpit table is a piece of engineering, lowering telescopically on support legs that meet lugs on the sole. The tabletop swivels to form a sunbed.
- The central aft bench lifts on struts for access to the drop-down swim platform, and includes a bracket to hold the shower head, providing a proper shower on the aft platform. Nice.
- This is the first Bavaria with an underdeck furler (Selden Furlex), a retractable bow thruster and an electric windlass in the sizeable chain locker.
- When raised, the sprayhood is, unfortunately, at perfect height to smack foreheads (1.7m).
Below deck on the Bavaria Vision 46
A light and comfortable area, but there is no navstation.
Instead the central part of the portside sofa can be raised and locked in place, the cushion removed to convert it to a coffee table cum makeshift chart table with lifting lid.
It’s a clever idea, as long as you don’t mind reducing your navigation area to such a paltry minimum.
The saloon table is a clever jigsaw puzzle, which swivels and lowers, using sole boards raised vertically each end to act as supports. There’s practical, accessible stowage below soles and berth.
A good area to work in at sea. Above and abaft the twin sinks in the central island is an alcove for optional coffee machine or beer tap (it is German!), although I reckon this space would prove ideal as a draining rack.
Good stowage and a bin under the sinks.
There’s plenty of worksurface and the stowage space is first class: deep drawers, raised lockers, deep bilge for tins/bottles, pan stowage beneath the stove, plus a huge fridge.
You step down into the forward cabin, so the 7ft headroom continues forward as far as the berth.
In this layout (no en-suite) this master cabin has a lavish amount of space and a vanity table with stool that is larger than the ‘chart table’.
There’s good stowage in two huge wardrobes and shelved cupboards to each side, and shoe slots in the bilge.
Alcoves in the forward bulkhead for books and cupholders are a neat touch.
A clever, versatile cabin, with twin berths that join to form a large double.
Good stowage and light, but headroom is constricted above the starboard berth.
Ventilation boards beneath berths lock into place.
The Bavaria Vision 46 is a highly innovative design, with a strict attention to detail, a premium regard for comfort and impressive build quality and styling throughout.
As such, the Vision 46 is a distinct step up in both quality and style, which was certainly needed to keep Bavaria up to speed with their French rivals.
Farr showed their influence in the Cruiser line and the Vision too demonstrates admirable seakeeping and is sturdier and quieter below at sea than any Bavaria I’ve sailed.
The German company have a good team in place now which, as well as Farr and Design Unlimited, includes Peter Meyer and Daniel Kohl to oversee the roll-out of the new lines.
With a Cruiser 33 and a 56 to come using the same fresh thinking and styling, it can only mean good things.
I’m glad all the gadgetry aboard is offered as an optional extra, as it’s easy to overcomplicate this simple, relaxing pastime.
But all the mod-cons aside, it’s the build quality and sailing ability that counts – and both impressed me. For a couple or family this new Vision looks a smart choice.
First published in the December 2012 issue of YW.
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